Tottenham Hotspur’s prospects of catching Leicester City in a thrilling Premier League title race suffered a major blow as they dropped two points in a frustrating 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane on Monday.
Albion defender Craig Dawson made amends for his 33rd-minute own-goal by heading home an equaliser 17 minutes from time that has huge ramifications for the destiny of this season’s English title.
Leicester are seven points clear of Spurs with three matches remaining and if they beat Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, they will become English football champions for the first time, regardless of anything else Tottenham do this season.
To make matters worse for Spurs, they could be missing one of their key players in the closing stages of the season after video footage emerged on Twitter which showed Dele Alli appearing to punch Albion midfielder Claudio Yacob in the stomach during the first half.
The incident was missed by the referee Mike Jones and England’s governing Football Association are now likely to review the incident.
If Alli, the newly-crowned Professional Footballers Association’ Young Player of the Year is punished retrospectively, he could be banned from the remainder of north London club Tottenham’s campaign.
On Sunday, Leicester consolidated their position at the top of the Premier League with a 4-0 home thumping of Swansea.
That result meant there was no margin of error for Tottenham.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino fielded the same side that overwhelmed Stoke City 4-0 a week earlier, while Albion were forced into making changes.
Saido Berahino, whom Tottenham tried but failed to sign in pre-season, was removed from the starting line-up having aggravated an ankle injury against Arsenal last Thursday.
– Myhill saves –
The other significant alteration saw Boaz Myhill coming in for goalkeeper Ben Foster, who also had an ankle problem, and the 33-year-old Welshman was called into immediate action.
In the opening minutes, he was at a full-stretch dive to turn a Christian Eriksen free-kick around for a corner. Moments later, he did exceptionally well to palm a Harry Kane effort on to the post. And not long afterwards Myhill could only watch as an effort from Eriksen clipped the top of the crossbar.
The breakthrough the home crowd desperately required eventually came with 12 minutes left in the first half.
Eriksen whipped in a superb free-kick which caused panic in the Albion defence and the falling Dawson, who had been tussling with Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen, inadvertently diverted the ball into his own net and through the legs of the unfortunate Myhill.
Spurs should really have doubled their lead when a signature sweeping move in the 57th minute saw Ali releasing Eriksen into space.
The Dane then fed Erik Lamela, whose effort bounced off the post, the third time Tottenham had hit the woodwork.
Yet Tottenham, who had appeals for a second-half penalty rejected when Jonny Evans appeared to handle an Eriksen delivery, ended up ruing all their missed chances.
They had plenty of warnings, with lone Albion striker Salomon Rondon heading wide and also forcing a one-handed save from Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Then, from a Craig Gardner corner, right-back Dawson beat Lloris in the air to head home.
Spurs midfielder Eric Dier was injured in the process and could be another absentee from the run-in.
By the time Tottenham visit Chelsea on Monday, the Premier League race could be over.
The only consolation for Spurs is that they are currently five points in front of Arsenal and in line to finish above their north London rivals for the first time since the 1994/95 season.